The 8 Best Things You Can Do for Yourself When You Return From Vacation
June 6, 2023
by Bill Murphy Jr. of Inc.
As an American, you legitimately could spend every day of your life on vacation and still make a good living. But the truth is, few of us actually do this. Instead, we work hard, take time off when we can, and face the inevitable letdown when it’s time to get back to the office.
I spent last week at the beach, and now I have to go back to work. So, while I was gone, I asked entrepreneurs, business leaders, and others for their tips on how to be productive after a great trip.
Here’s the best advice they gave me:
1. Come Back on a Wednesday or Thursday
The number one tip I heard from people was not to go back to work on the first day after vacation. However, Dr. Chris Allen, a psychologist and executive coach with Insight Business Works, takes it a step further.
“If possible, return on a Wednesday or Thursday,” Allen says. “Then, you only have to get through two or three days, and you have the weekend off. It’s a good way to ease back into work. Airline travel is cheaper mid-week, too.”
2. Start the Day Before
Caveat: Not going to work the day after vacation doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything before you return.
Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, the world’s largest open source software company, and author of The Open Organization, suggests using the Sunday before to “lay out what you want to accomplish that first week back.”
“Actually, I’d recommend doing this every Sunday,” Whitehurst says. “It only takes 15 or 20 minutes, but I find that a little bit of pre-planning drives much of how I spend my time during the week.”
3. Get Up Early (and Maybe Meditate)
OK, you’re back. You go to bed and set the alarm. What, if anything, should you do differently when you wake up, compared to what you do on regular workdays?
Get up early, suggests Nik Ingersoll, Co-founder and CMO of Barnana, and start the day out with 30 to 60 minutes of meditation. “Set your intention for the day, week, month at the end of the meditation. Then go out and kill it,” Ingersoll says.
4. Get Your Diet Right
Next up is food, and getting your meals on track right away—after whatever kind of dietary damage you did to yourself while you were away. (It happens to most of us!)
“Hit the grocery store either the day you get home or the very next, and cook up a batch of healthy, whole foods (without added sugar!) for your first few days,” suggests Diane Sanfilippo, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle. “This will ensure that your focus is on-point and keep your productivity from tanking.”
5. Take a Few Minutes to Find Out What Happened
Now we get to the office—or at least to Monday morning. Maybe you’ve been in touch with your colleagues the whole time, or maybe you’re better at vacations than most of us and have actually unplugged.
Regardless, you’re probably a little bit out of the loop. How do you get up to speed quickly? Leon Rbibo, President of The Pearl Source, suggests doing so with a stopwatch.
“I sit down with each one of my key managers and put 60 seconds on the clock,” Rbibo says. “They provide me with the must-know highlights of what happened while I was out. If it can’t be said in 60 seconds, it wasn’t important enough in the first place.”
6. Delete a Bunch of Emails
Chances are, you’re swamped with messages. When I came home Friday, I had more than 2,700 unread emails—despite the fact that I’d checked email at least a couple of times a day while I was gone.
How are you supposed to get through all of those?
Short answer: You’re not supposed to—maybe you can just delete them.
On his last vacation, Gene Caballero, Co-founder of GreenPal, said he had 2,000 unread emails, but “instead of sorting through them all, I deleted everything that didn’t have an attachment and moved on. If it was really important, they emailed me again.”
7. If You Must Read Emails, Read Them in Last-to-First Order
Sometimes the best recipe for solving a problem is a reverse take on a famous saying: “Don’t just do something; stand there.”
That’s why Kate Gulliver, Head of Talent Management at Wayfair, suggests that if you’re not just going to delete your emails like Caballero suggests, at the least review them using the “LIFO [last in, first out] method, with the most recent emails first.”
“I find that many issues have already been resolved by the time I return to the office,” she says. “So checking the newest emails first is the most efficient way for me to get caught up.”
8. Focus on Big Projects
I heard from a lot of business people, but I have to admit I like the related advice I heard from two people the most: Think big or swing for the fences. They had slightly different takes on the idea.
First, Spencer X. Smith, a consultant and former VP of sales at a Fortune 100 company, who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin, suggests having “at least two high-priority business development opportunities scheduled for right when you get back.”
“Why? Instead of returning to work with a whimper, these meetings will both get you excited and force you to step up your game immediately. That momentum will carry through the rest of the week,” he says.
And Jesse Gassis, who founded a company in Brooklyn called Bedford Slims, suggests encouraging people on your team to get out of their comfort zone and work on “forward thinking projects, sometimes outside of their expertise” when they come back to the office.
“It could be a new product design, or a Santa-themed photo shoot, or setting up our CMJ Fest party in October” he says. “Truthfully, we’ll still be working on these projects all the way up to the deadline, so it doesn’t get us ahead, but it does make our concepts stronger. By doing so, I get people’s brain out of summer and thinking about winter.”